Leaked letter defends DOJ's antitrust probe into automakers over California emissions

Critics accuse the administration of using law enforcement as political weapon

A Justice Department letter defending the administration's antitrust collusion inquiry into automakers who sided with California against the Trump administration in last year's emissions-standards conflict has leaked ahead of an upcoming congressional inquiry into the administration's politicization of federal law enforcement. 

The U.S. House of Representatives is launching an inquiry into whether the administration weaponized the Justice Department to further its own political goals. Among the subjects of the inquiry is the antitrust investigation that was launched into four automakers who reached an independent agreement with California-emissions states to build vehicles with fuel economy superior to that required by the Trump administration's revised standards.

Last July, Ford, BMW, Volkswagen and Honda said they had reached a deal to adopt standards that were lower than Obama-era rules but higher than the Trump administration's 2018 proposal. In doing so, the automakers defied the Trump administration's effort to strip California of the right to fight climate change by setting its own standards. Automakers fear years of legal battles over conflicting sets of standards and want to ensure certainty over the requirements they will face nationwide.

“We share the view that political interference from outside the Department must never govern law enforcement efforts,” the letter obtained by Bloomberg says. “This inquiry was, based on the information known to it at the time, entirely reasonable.”

In September, with tensions between California and the Trump administration at their peak, the DOJ's antitrust division sent a letter to the four automakers indicating it had opened a preliminary inquiry. The investigation was closed in February when the DOJ's investigation failed to find conduct violating the law. 



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